Melbourne, Australia: Shikhar Dhawan brought up an assured and stylish century as India shrugged off an early setback to post a challenging total of 307-7 against South Africa in a Pool B World Cup match Sunday.
A.B. de Villiers gave South Africa a promising start after India won the toss and elected to bat, scoring a direct hit on the stumps after a diving stop, catching Rohit Sharma well out of his crease and yet to score in the third over.
After a lackluster test and one-day series in Australia, Dhawan treated South Africa's much-vaunted bowling attack with disdain as he placed his shots around the Melbourne Cricket Ground at will to reach 137 — the highest ever individual World Cup score against South Africa.
Dhawan and Virat Kohli set about restoring India's platform with some stylish stroke play from either end of the crease in a 127-run second wicket partnership.
Kohli made an attractive 46 before succumbing to the spin of Imran Tahir (1-48), clipping the ball straight to the chest of Faf du Plessis at short mid-wicket.
Ajinkya Rahane had 79 off 60 balls and shared a 125-run partnership with Dhawan for the fourth wicket.
Dhawan dictated play, defying both pace and spin to smash 16 boundaries and two sixes off 146 balls, having survived a chance earlier in his innings when Hashim Amla turfed a difficult attempt at backward point.
He fittingly raised his century with a four through point off Wayne Parnell, raising his bat with outstretched arms and looking skyward to a standing ovation and the sustained roar of an appreciative crowd.
The 137 by Dhawan, who fell when he lofted a shotball from Parnell to Amla at long leg, eclipsed the previous highest World Cup score against South Africa of 134 by New Zealand's Stephen Fleming in 2003.
The game was a home match for India, as more than 80,000 — mainly Indian — fans turned the MCG into a sea of the team's blue, punctuated only by Indian flags waving around the stadium.